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Community, city collaborate on bike/school safety initiatives

August 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A recent travel survey suggests that 40 percent of all trips Americans take are 2 miles or less from home, yet only 2 percent of these trips are accomplished by bicycle. Many people say it's just not safe. One Glendale resident decided to change that in her neighborhood.

During the summer, road construction picks up. But when school starts, traffic can get heavier.

"We're doing a lot of construction at all four corners of the school in order to reduce the distance that students, parents have to cross safely," said Jano Baghdanian, Glendale Public Works traffic and transportation administrator.

Richardson D. White Elementary School on Doran Street is the first of 18 schools under a million-dollar transformation project in Glendale.

"We have a terrible record when it comes to collisions between pedestrians and cars," said Glendale City Councilwoman Laura Friedman. "We need to reclaim our streets."

Friedman is working on just that, getting enormous help from local resident Kara Sergile, who spearheaded a program to take back the suburbs and make things safer for pedestrians.

"I pulled together a group of parents, we started collecting data about what we were seeing," said Sergile. "And about the same time as we were doing that, the city decided to apply for the Safe Routes to School grant."

Glendale got that grant and used it to bump out curbs, improve sidewalks, add stop signs, striping, and educate parents on new rules.

To say Sergile was tenacious about her goal is an understatement. She enlisted the help of the department head of the city of Glendale, the school district and the PTA, her own faculty at the school, and Walk Bike Glendale.

"We now have a group called Walk Bike Glendale, which is completely grass-roots, made up of our citizens, who are saying 'We want this and we'll do whatever we can do to make it happen,'" said Friedman.

And it's working. Every Friday about 100 children participate in a walking school bus with faculty and parents, while many families are starting bicycle trains to school.

Sergile's advice to those wanting to help their town?

"If it's something you're passionate about, staying with it," said Sergile. "And not just letting it go because things don't happen overnight."